Academic journal article The Psychological Record

Immediate Feedback Assessment Technique Promotes Learning and Corrects Inaccurate First Responses

Academic journal article The Psychological Record

Immediate Feedback Assessment Technique Promotes Learning and Corrects Inaccurate First Responses

Article excerpt

Testing and assessment are integral to the educational process. When university or college education takes place as tutorials or in classrooms with a small number of participants, essay examinations are preferred, as they are relatively easy to construct, they allow the instructor to assess the depth and breadth of participant understanding, and they enable the instructor to allocate partial credit for proximate knowledge. There are, however, significant drawbacks to the essay format, including subjectivity in scoring, variation in the quality and quantity of feedback within and between evaluators, and the substantial investment of time, energy, and attention to score. The administration of essay questions in large classes typically lengthens the amount of time between the completion and the return of examinations, and in many cases, decreases the amount of corrective information that can be supplied.

One solution to several of these drawbacks is the use of the multiple-choice test format. Mislevy (1991) discusses the origins and explosive growth in multiple-choice testing since World War 1. Educators teaching classes with small and large enrollments found that multiple-choice tests were easy to score, were reliable, minimized subjectivity, and could often be returned at the next class meeting. The advent of computerized test banks has made test construction a simple process. Although, in many circumstances, multiple-choice tests are more appropriate than essay examinations, they too have drawbacks. Multiple-choice tests tend to be difficult to construct in the absence of a publisher-supplied test bank, and given the necessity of a single best answer, they are not as sensitive to proximate knowledge as the essay format. Also, a multiple-choice question is often related either to an earlier or to a subsequent test question, and thus an incorrect response on one item will likely be associated with a similar error on the related item--a type of "double jeopardy."

Among the more substantive drawbacks of both test formats are the failure to facilitate learning during the test-taking process and the return of either instructor- or machine-scored tests without information to correct inaccurate responding, an essential feature of the learning process. Despite almost a century of research, there is little consensus either about the mechanisms by which feedback affects learning or about the efficacy of feedback (e.g., Kluger & DeNisi, 1998). Delays as short as several seconds have been reported to adversely affect the learning of children (e.g., Hetherington & Ross, 1967) and adults (e.g., Aiken, 1968; Beeson, 1973; Gaynor, 1981). Surprisingly, a 24-hr delay of feedback has been reported to have a positive influence on learning, an outcome known as the delayed reinforcement effect (DRE) (e.g., Brackbill, Bravos, & Starr, 1962; Kulhavy & Anderson, 1972; Surber & Anderson, 1975).The mechanisms underlying the DRE appear to be related to the general beneficial effects of feedbac k, such as the correction of previously inaccurate assumptions and the reduction of inaccurate perseverative responding. The typical multiple-choice test may be an effective and practical assessment tool but it does not convert mistakes into new learning. Indeed, without corrective feedback, the learner likely exits an examination assuming that an incorrect response was actually correct; thus, an examination that does not employ feedback may promote misconceptions. A more optimal multiple-choice testing format would not only assess the learner's current level of understanding, but would also correct misunderstandings. That is, the test would teach as well as assess.

In a recent report, we described the benefits of an answer-until-correct (AUC) multiple-choice procedure that provided immediate feedback and enabled, at instructor discretion, the assignment of partial credit for proximate knowledge--the Immediate Feedback Assessment Technique (IF AT) (Epstein, Epstein, & Brosvic, 2001). …

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